By Oladeinde Olawoyin
On July 7, PREMIUM TIMES published an exclusive report which detailed how Nigeria’s minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, did not participate in the mandatory one-year national youth service scheme organised by the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. This paper also exposed how the minister forged an exemption certificate many years after graduation.
The year-long service, organised by the NYSC, is compulsory for all Nigerians who graduate from universities or equivalent institutions at less than 30 years of age. Aside being a requirement for government and private sector jobs in Nigeria, the enabling law prescribes punishment for anyone who absconds from the scheme or forges its certificates.
Eligible Nigerians who skipped the service are liable to be sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and/or N2,000 fine, according to Section 13 of the NYSC law. Section 13 (3) of the law also prescribes three-year jail term or option of N5,000 fine for anyone who contravenes provision of the law as Mrs Adeosun has done. Subsection 4 of the same section also criminalises giving false information or illegally obtaining the agency’s certificate. It provides for up to three-year jail term for such offenders.
Mrs Adeosun’s official credentials obtained by PREMIUM TIMES show that the minister parades a purported NYSC exemption certificate, which was issued in September 2009, granting her exemption from the mandatory service on account of age.
This newspaper also uncovered how lawmakers blackmailed the minister into releasing funds to the national assembly with some dirty details they detected about her, which turned out to be the NYSC certificate scandal.
The paper had earlier reported in April details of the controversial release of N10 billion to the National Assembly by Mrs Adeosun. The lawmaking arm then wasted the money on exotic cars and dubious contracts. Some of the companies to which the contracts were awarded were not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Bureau of Public Procurement.
In June, this newspaper reported how the minister spent about N12 billion to finance projects the presidency wanted removed from the 2017 budget.
More than a week after the scandal broke out, both the minister and her employer, the Federal Government of Nigeria, have not come out clean over the matter, even as Nigerians await the outcome of the allegations.
This is the timeline of events so far as they unfolded.
April: PREMIUM TIMES in a series of reports revealed how the minister repeatedly enriched lawmakers by funding unapproved projects and making unappropriated cash payments to the legislative arm of government. In April, this newspaper published details of the controversial release of N10 billion to the National Assembly by Mrs Adeosun. The lawmaking arm then wasted the money on exotic cars and dubious contracts. Some of the companies to which the contracts were awarded were not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Bureau of Public Procurement.
April 16: Also in April, our reporter first visited the NYSC headquarters to commence discreet investigation into Mrs Adeosun’s ‘certificate’.
April 17: Based on the directive to file a formal application, a letter requesting verification of the certificate was delivered at the NYSC headquarters on April 17. Within two days, the director general, who was the addressee, sent the request to the Certification Department for the checks.
May 1-30: Our reporter repeatedly made follow-ups but no breakthrough.
May 31: The register for UK graduates who were given exemptions was brought in the presence of our reporter and the officials diligently looked through the 2009 entries. It was confirmed that “Folakemi Adeosun” was not in the register. The reporter was therefore asked to return the next day to pick up the NYSC’s response. He was given account details for payment of the verification fee of N2,000. The payment was made the same day.
June 1: Our staff was directed to the NYSC’s Account Department on the fifth floor to change the Remita receipt into the NYSC official receipt. A receipt numbered 711133 was then issued but on returning to present the receipt for the letter at the NYSC’s Verification Division, the NYSC officials said the verification had been channelled to the organisation’s ICT unit to check its “electronic database”.
June 8: Frustrated by the sudden back-tracking by the agency, this newspaper delivered a Freedom of Information request to the NYSC headquarters. The FoI request was ignored in spite of the FoI Act’s provision for agencies to respond to requests within one week or write to seek extension if unable to comply within the stipulated time.
Meanwhile, between June and July, to the surprise of this newspaper, the initial request letter to the NYSC was leaked to Mrs Adeosun and her handlers who pressured PREMIUM TIMES reporters, editors and owners. PREMIUM TIMES believed the letter was leaked June 1 when the agency claimed our request was redirected to the ICT unit for electronic checks. For days, this paper’s staff came under undue pressure over the story, including attempts at compromising those thought to be working on the report and the management. Around this time, the NYSC became non-responsive and officials started evading our reporters both on telephone and in their offices.
July 6: This newspaper exclusively reported how some senators provided insights into why Mrs Adeosun remained exceptionally generous in funnelling billions of naira to federal lawmakers. “What I am aware of is some of our people said they have an ammunition they can use to silence her,” a senator said. That has given way for the leadership (of the National Assembly) to intimidate her, knowing that they could get her out of her job if she doesn’t cooperate.”
July 7: This newspaper exposed how Mrs Adeosun did not participate in the mandatory one-year national youth service scheme. The report also detailed how, instead, she forged an exemption certificate many years after graduation.
July 9: Forty eight hours after the news broke amidst outrage among Nigerians, PREMIUM TIMES released Mrs Adeosun’s documents exactly as she submitted them to President Muhammadu Buhari (before her nomination), the State Security Service (for credential and security scrutiny) and the Senate (for her confirmation hearing). The documents included copies of her curriculum vitae, her high school GCE results, her university degree and post graduate diploma, her purported NYSC exemption certificate, Income Tax Clearance Certificate for Tax Year 2015 and certificates of membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Of the documents, the only one that has become controversial so far is the NYSC exemption ‘certificate’, which was purportedly issued on September 7, 2009.
July 9: Hours after PREMIUM TIMES published the documents, the NYSC in a terse message disowned Mrs Adeosun’s ‘exemption certificate’, claiming it would ‘investigate’ the source of her purported certificate. The corps however said she did apply for exemption certificate, without providing details of the time of the application and what the authorities of the corps did about it.
July 10: Amidst outrage among Nigerians, this newspaper obtained and subsequently published an exemption certificate that further rubbished the authenticity of the purported NYSC certificate being paraded by Mrs Adeosun. A look into both certificates showed a number of discrepancies, which revealed that Mrs Adeosun’s certificate is fake.
July 10: PREMIUM TIMES reported that the NYSC came under intense pressure to provide ‘softlanding’ for Mrs Adeosun. Our reporter gathered that there were feelers from the NYSC headquarters that some intercessors who wanted the matter completely covered were suggesting misplacing the relevant NYSC register as a last resort. Similarly, a governor believed to be Mrs Adeosun’s godfather repeatedly reached out to the NYSC boss, persuading him to “help the minister out”.
July 11: A retired Director of Mobilisation at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Anthony Ani, cited reasons why the purported ‘Certificate of Exemption’ owned by Mrs Adeosun is not genuine and “wouldn’t have emanated from the NYSC”. Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ani said, “The certificate that I saw, that one that I saw, the one that I saw online, if it is the real one that they are talking about, it was not issued by the NYSC.”
July 11: Amidst outrage and demand for explanation by Nigerians, especially as the government kept quiet over the issue, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the government had nothing to say about the scandal. “I have nothing to add to what the NYSC has said. The NYSC is part of government and it has spoken,” Mr Mohammed said.
July 12: Maharazu Tsiga, the DG who assumed office at the NYSC in January 2009 said Mrs Adeosun is not entitled to NYSC Certificate of Exemption, and even if she had applied for one, there was no way he could have approved such request. Mr Tsiga repeated the point earlier made by Mr Ani that verifying any certificate claimed to be from the NYSC is an easy task. “We have what is called strong room. I believe from there they can easily identify if a certificate is issued by the NYSC or not,” he said when asked about the NYSC’s claim about an ongoing investigation.
July 13: Mrs Adeosun and Pastor Tunde Bakare visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa and they had closed door meeting. Mr Bakare, an ally of Mr Buhari who was at the presidential villa at the same time with the minister and left shortly afterwards, however, said he was not at the villa because of Mrs Adeosun’s forgery scandal.
July 13: Meanwhile, about a week after the scandal broke, neither the presidency nor the minister officially responded to the allegations. And just when a few Nigerians were insinuating that the president was perhaps unaware of the scandal, details emerged that Mrs Adeosun had “seen”President Muhammadu Buhari thrice since her certificate forgery scandal was exposed. Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in a statement his office sent to PREMIUM TIMES, said Mrs Adeosun and Mr Bakare never met the president together and that the minister “did not need to meet with him (Mr Buhari) again on Friday.”
July 14: Mrs Adeosun was elected chairperson of theboard of the African Export-Import Bank during the annual general meeting of AFREXIMBANK in Abuja. The bank, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, met in Abuja. The meeting was also attended by Mr Buhari. It is unclear how the government, whose agenda is premised on anti-corruption war, would handle the scandal.